Social media platform Parler said it had referred violent content from its platform to the FBI ahead of the breach at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Parler made the disclosure in a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in response to the panel’s request for documents. The company said that it had referred “violent content and incitement” from its platform to the FBI over 50 times before Jan. 6. It also warned the bureau about “specific threats of violence being planned” about the Jan. 6 incident.
“Parler now writes to set the record straight and provide new information about the positive role Parler played in the days and weeks leading up to January 6th, which should finally put an end to the spurious allegations against the Company,” the letter, penned by Parler’s attorney Michael S. Dry, stated.
The information is the latest in an ongoing feud between Parler and big tech companies that had sought to terminate the platform’s operation following the Jan. 6 incident. Apple and Google removed Parler from its app stores, while Amazon removed the platform from its web hosting service. All three companies took issue with the company’s alleged lax approach to violent content posted by its users and “repeated violations” of their terms of service related to such violent content.
Parler has denied the allegations and argued that the big tech companies had colluded against it as it had not taken action against competitors like Twitter and Facebook, which had similar content on their platforms regarding Jan. 6. Parler has also sued Amazon for a breach of contract, defamation, and anticompetitive behavior.
“There is no truth to the absurd conspiracy theories that have been put forth by Big Tech and its media allies to unfairly malign the company and which were referenced in the Committee’s Letter,” Parler said, according to the letter. “Contrary to what has been reported, and as explained in more detail below: the company is and always has been American-owned and controlled; Parler has never engaged in any collusion with ‘the Russians’; and Parler never offered President Donald J. Trump an ownership interest in the company.”
In its letter, Parler said that the company recognizes “legal limits to free speech” and that its policies “have always prohibited threats of violence and incitement on its platform.” It said that it had developed a “strong working relationship with the FBI” to foster cooperation with law enforcement, and ensure that unlawful incitement and violent threats were reported in a timely manner.
The company added that it had formalized its working relationship with the FBI in November 2020 and began to regularly forwarding screenshots of unlawful posts that called for violence or merited additional investigation for public safety. Such posts include users threatening to kill politicians and former Attorney General Bill Barr.
Parler said it had also alerted the FBI in December to content about specific threats of organized violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The company also sought to underscore the alleged unbalanced scrutiny of the platform, arguing that, out of 270 Justice Department charging documents it had perused, 80 percent of social media references related to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while only 5 percent mentioned Parler.
The letter also denied other accusations that had been lodged against the platform, including alleged collusion with Russian businesses and alleged discussion with former President Donald Trump aides to offer the former president an ownership interest in the company.
“This is also false,” the letter states. “Based on our review of documents and interviews of relevant individuals, we have identified no evidence that Parler ever negotiated with anyone to provide former President Donald Trump with a personal ownership interest in the company.”
Parler went under leadership restructuring following its dispute with big tech. Former Parler CEO John Matze, who co-founded the company, said he was fired following a dispute with one of Parler’s investors, Rebekah Mercer, over content moderation. Matze said this week that he has filed a lawsuit against the company.